haitians react to capitol protest
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier Wednesday, Jan. 6 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Julio Cortez, Associated Press

By Sam Bojarski

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier Wednesday, Jan. 6 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Julio Cortez, Associated Press

News reports showing thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters storming the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon welled up painful memories of political unrest for some Haitians. 

Gerlanda Gelin, of Oakland, California, lived through two coups d’etat in Haiti, 1991 and 2004. 

“I was born in 1990, that was during the Haitian coup and transition, and my whole life, I don’t know what peace feels like,” Gelin, 30, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2007, said in an interview.

Gelin also echoed the sentiments of other Haitians on social media, denouncing the mainstream media’s reluctance to call the events in Washington a coup attempt. “The way they’re talking about it, they’re making it look sweet,” she said over the phone, contrasting the rhetoric to depictions of the developing world.

The protesters that stormed the Capitol Building Jan. 6, some of them armed, interrupted a vote to certify the Electoral College results and officially declare President-elect Joseph R. Biden the winner of November’s election. Haitians on social media were quick to label the events a coup, also voicing concern about America’s future. 

“Growing up in #Haiti… we called that a ‘coup d’etat.’ This is a sad moment in America’s journey,” wrote one Twitter user, Carmelle Cadet.

Others pointed out the irony of the situation in Washington. The anti-democratic display, they say, parallels the long history of Washington’s interference in Haiti’s affairs.

“The disregard for other countries [sic] sovereignty, the love for dictatorship and support for corrupt governments around the world make a lot sense for me of what happened in Washington today,” Andy Durandis told The Haitian Times on Twitter. 

In a Facebook post, journalist Paul Bermann Francois said it is now the United States’ turn to witness unrest.

The melee in Washington that interrupted the certification, stoked by President Trump’s speech from the White House earlier in the day, has already resulted in an outbreak of gun violence. Trump has routinely made baseless claims of electoral fraud.

Seeing the way President Trump’s speeches stoked division since 2016, Gelin said in an interview that she has long been concerned that the U.S. was heading down the wrong road. 

“‘Is this what you want?’” she recalled asking her sister, who supported Trump. 

Following the Jan. 6 events in Washington, the world will be waiting for what lies in store for American democracy.

“I just hope America wakes up, wakes up from this nightmare, because it can get worse,” Gelin said in an interview.

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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